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Stalin’s Wartime Correspondence with Churchill and Roosevelt

Stalin’s Wartime Correspondence with Churchill and Roosevelt

The ‘Big Three’ Leaders exchanged 687 messages between Hitler’s invasion of the USSR on 22 June 1941 and Roosevelt’s death on 12 April 1945. This research project has produced an edition of the main letters, with commentary, which will be published by Yale University Press in October 2018 under the title The Kremlin Letters. Text of all the documents and commentary will be published online by Yale in 2021 in a digital, searchable edition.

The PI is Prof. David Reynolds, FBA, working in collaboration with Prof. Vladimir Pechatnov, MGIMO, Moscow, and supported by a small research grant from the British Academy (2010-12) of £7,490 and a Leverhulme Project Grant (2015-18) of £139,000. The latter included funding for a bilingual research assistant, Dr Olga Kucherenko – formerly a JRF at St John’s College.

The main novelty of the research is that it opens up for the first time for an Anglophone audience the riches of the Stalin Archive and the Foreign Ministry files in Moscow. This material is set against documents from the National Archives in Kew and the Churchill Archives in Cambridge, and also files from the Roosevelt Library (Hyde Park, New York) and the US National Archives (College Park, Maryland).

The messages deal with some of the most sensitive issues of wartime diplomacy and operations, notably the ‘Second Front’, the Arctic Convoys and the fate of Poland. They also reveal the extent to which the three leaders – despite their very different backgrounds and outlooks – did manage to cooperate, especially in the summer of 1944 when their armies were thrusting from east and west towards Berlin.

The commentary helps to contextualise the correspondence – drawing on earlier drafts and on reports from the ambassadors who delivered the messages – and sets it within the unfolding story of the war in the Soviet Union, the Mediterranean, and finally in the heart of Europe. It also reveals the very different ways in which each of the Big Three used letters in an attempt to build personal relations and also the difficulties they all had in comprehending other political cultures.

The project constitutes a major contribution to our understanding of the Second World War – and also to the origins of the Cold War.  

Stalin’s Wartime Correspondence with Churchill and Roosevelt